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EU Court of Justice rules consumer protection agencies can sue companies for GDPR violations

Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Courts Germany EU Of Interest to Non-US Persons GDPR Consumer Protection

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On April 28, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued an opinion concluding that consumer protection associations are permitted to bring representative actions against infringements of personal data protection “independently of the specific infringement of a data subject’s right to the protection of his or her personal data and in the absence of a mandate to that effect.” According to the judgment, Germany’s Federal Union of Consumer Organisations and Associations brought an action for an injunction against a global social media company’s Ireland division for allegedly infringing on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules governing the protection of personal data, the combat of unfair commercial practices, and consumer protection when offering users free games provided by third parties. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice called into question whether a consumer protection association has standing to bring proceedings in the civil courts against infringements of the GDPR without obtaining a mandate from users whose data was misused. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice also observed that the GDPR could be inferred to read that “it is principally for the supervisory authorities to verify the application of the provisions of that regulation.”

In its ruling, CJEU concluded that consumer protection associations in the EU can bring representative actions against the social media company for alleged violations of the GDPR, writing that the GDPR “does not preclude national legislation which allows a consumer protection association to bring legal proceedings, in the absence of a mandate conferred on it for that purpose and independently of the infringement of specific rights of the data subjects, against the person allegedly responsible for an infringement of the laws protecting personal data . . . where the data processing concerned is liable to affect the rights that identified or identifiable natural persons derive from that regulation.” Permitting associations to bring representative actions is “consistent with the objective pursued by the GDPR . . . in particular, ensuring a high level of protection of personal data,” CJEU stated.

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